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Install and setup Backup Manager on Debian

by Pierre-Yves Landuré last modified Mar 02, 2018 06:04

Backup Manager is a tool easing data backup. It offer many options and backup methods. It is perfectly adapted to the backup of a single dedicated server.

This howto is tested on:

  • Debian 6.0 Squeeze
  • Debian 7.0 Wheezy


Install backup-manager with its default configuration:

DEBIAN_FRONTEND='noninteractive' command apt-get install backup-manager bzip2

Allow the "backup" group to view, but not edit, archives :

command sed -i -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_REPOSITORY_GROUP=\).*$/\1"backup"/' \
            -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_REPOSITORY_CHMOD=\).*$/\1"750"/' \
            -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_ARCHIVE_CHMOD=\).*$/\1"640"/' \

Make sure that backup-manager is run daily by cron:

if [ ! -e '/etc/cron.daily/backup-manager' ]; then
  echo '#!/bin/sh
# cron script for backup-manager
test -x /usr/sbin/backup-manager || exit 0
/usr/sbin/backup-manager' \
    > '/etc/cron.daily/backup-manager'
  chmod +x '/etc/cron.daily/backup-manager'
/etc/init.d/cron reload

Add the log level option to prevent warnings :

if [ -z "$(command grep 'BM_LOGGER_LEVEL' '/etc/backup-manager.conf')" ]; then
  command echo '
export BM_LOGGER_LEVEL="warning"' \
  >> '/etc/backup-manager.conf'

Setup a default port for SSH uploads, to prevent warnings on Debian Lenny :

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_PORT=\).*$/\1"22"/' \

Set the archives file type to tar.bz2 :

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_TARBALL_FILETYPE=\).*$/\1"tar.bz2"/' \

Enable incremental backup :

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_ARCHIVE_METHOD=\).*$/\1"tarball-incremental"/' \

By default, "master" backups are created on mondays.

Disable the default export methods :

command sed -i \
-e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_METHOD=\).*$/\1\"\"/" \
-e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_BURNING_METHOD=\).*$/\1\"\"/" \ '/etc/backup-manager.conf'

Use the BM_TARBALL_TARGETS option in place of BM_TARBALL_DIRECTORIES. It ease the management of backup targets :

command sed -i \
-e 's/^# \(declare.*BM_TARBALL_TARGETS.*\)$/\1/' \ -e 's/^# \(BM_TARBALL_TARGETS\[.*\)$/\1/' \ -e 's/^# \(export.*BM_TARBALL_TARGETS.*\)$/\1/' \
-e 's/^\(export BM_TARBALL_DIRECTORIES.*\)$/# \1/' \

Note : if the "/var/archives" folder contains other systems backups, enable the purge of this other systems old backups :

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_ARCHIVE_STRICTPURGE=\).*$/\1"false"/' \

Backup targets management

Install the backup target management tool :

command wget '' \
    --quiet --no-check-certificate --output-document='/usr/bin/backup-manager-tools'
command chmod +x '/usr/bin/backup-manager-tools'

This tool usage is :

  • List backup targets :
    # command backup-manager-tools list
  • Add a target to backup :
    # command backup-manager-tools add '/some/path'
  • Remove a target from backup :
    # command backup-manager-tools remove '/some/path'
  • Clean-up deleted backup targets :
    # command backup-manager-tools cleanup

By default, Backup Manager is setup to backup /etc and /home folders. Add to this /root and /var/backups :

command backup-manager-tools add '/root'
command backup-manager-tools add '/var/backups'


Backup scheduling

By default, the backup is done with others daily tasks (cron.daily) at 6:25 AM. Change the cron.daily schedule in the file "/etc/crontab" (the bold values are the minute and hour settings to customize):

# m h dom mon dow user    command
25 6 * * *    root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.daily )

Reload the cron configuration:

/etc/init.d/cron reload

Backup process priority

If the system responsiveness is important, set to the lowest level the backup process priority. The backup will take more time, but will not interfere with the system other works:

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_ARCHIVE_NICE_LEVEL=\).*$/\1"19"/' \

Archives compression

The type of created archives affects the system load during the backup. If the volume of data is important, and the disk space used by backups is not a critical data, change the file type for tar archives (no compression is applied to backups):

command sed -i \
    -e 's/[#]*\(.*BM_TARBALL_FILETYPE=\).*$/\1"tar"/' \

Backups export

A hardware break is always possible. To prevent data loss, setup a export of backed-up data to another location. Backup Manager can copy its backups to other hosts.

SCP export

This method make use of a remote host with SSH access. This method need to be able to connect to a distant account with a authentication SSL key (see ssh-keygen and ssh-copy-id). Provide the SSH server connection parameters (edit the bold values) :


The SSH private key can be created with ssh-keygen.

Update the software configuration :

command sed -i -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_USER=\).*$|\1\"${SSH_USER}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_KEY=\).*$|\1\"${SSH_PRIVATE_KEY}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_HOSTS=\).*$|\1\"${SSH_HOST}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_DESTINATION=\).*$|\1\"${SSH_PATH}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_SSH_PORT=\).*$|\1\"22\"|" \

Enable the SCP export :

command sed -i -e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_METHOD=\).*$/\1\"scp\"/" \

The BM_UPLOAD_SSH_PORT setting is needed for this method to work on Debian 5.0 Lenny. The BM_UPLOAD_SSH_TTL setting is needed to enable the purge of old distant backups.

FTP export

This method make use of a remote host with FTP access (note that OVH provide a free FTP backup space for each dedicated server). Provide the FTP access parameters (edit the bold values) :


The FTP_PATH setting can be something else than the root of the FTP account. It can be any folder in the FTP space.

Update the software configuration :

command sed -i -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_FTP_USER=\).*$|\1\"${FTP_USER}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_FTP_PASSWORD=\).*$|\1\"${FTP_PASSWORD}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_FTP_HOSTS=\).*$|\1\"${FTP_HOST}\"|" \
            -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_FTP_DESTINATION=\).*$|\1\"${FTP_PATH}\"|" \

Enable the FTP export :

command sed -i -e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_METHOD=\).*$/\1\"ftp\"/" \

Rsync export

This method allow to backup heavy folders on a remote server, without the need to create a tarball. It is the recommended way to backup folders with a size over one Gigabyte.

By default, this method use the SSH server configured in SCP export.

Provide the list of folders to be backuped with Rsync:


Update the software configuration:

command sed -i -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_RSYNC_DIRECTORIES=\).*$|\1\"${RSYNC_DIRECTORIES}\"|" \

Enable the Rsync export in addition to the current upload method:

command sed -i -e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_METHOD=\"[^\"]*\)\".*$/\1 rsync\"/" \

Or enable the Rsync export only:

command sed -i -e "s/[#]*\(.*BM_UPLOAD_METHOD=\).*$/\1\"rsync\"/" \

Note: If the SSH server use a custom port, apply this patch for Backup Manager to use it:

command dpkg-divert --divert '/usr/share/backup-manager/' \
 --rename '/usr/share/backup-manager/'
command cp -a '/usr/share/backup-manager/' '/usr/share/backup-manager/'
command sed -i -e '/ssh_option="ssh -l/i\
if [[ -n "${BM_UPLOAD_SSH_PORT}" ]]; then\
ssh_port_switch="-p ${BM_UPLOAD_SSH_PORT}";\
fi' \
-e 's/ssh_option="ssh -l/ssh_option="ssh ${ssh_port_switch} -l/' \

Export to Windows share (SMB / CIFS)

If the server is in a Windows network, it is possible to copy the archives created by Backup Manager to a shared folder on a Windows server.

Download the needed files :

command mkdir --parents '/opt/bin'
command wget '' \ --quiet --no-check-certificate --output-document='/etc/backup-manager-cifs-export.conf' command wget '' \ --quiet --no-check-certificate --output-document='/opt/bin/backup-manager-cifs-export' command chmod +x '/opt/bin/backup-manager-cifs-export'

Install the dependencies :

command apt-get install cifs-utils rsync

Setup Backup Manager to run the script 'backup-manager-cifs-export' a the end of the backup process :

command sed -i -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_POST_BACKUP_COMMAND=\).*$|\1\"/opt/bin/backup-manager-cifs-export\"|" \

Setup the export by editing the file /etc/backup-manager-cifs-export.conf :

command nano '/etc/backup-manager-cifs-export.conf'

Copying a large folder to a remote FTP host

Using compression, even incremental, to backup more than a few Giga Bytes is unadapted. Backup Manager answer to this problem is to use "rsync" to backup heady data amounts. rsync is the best method to handle heavy data exchanges. Rsync use a SSH access to access a remote host.

If no SSH access is available, but a FTP account is provided (for example, a OVH dedicated server FTP backup space), rsync can not be used. The following method propose a way to solve this problem and allow to copy heavy amounts of data to a remote FTP account.

Create the folder for the specific scripts :

command mkdir --parents '/etc/backup-manager'

Download the scripts :

command wget '' \
    --quiet --no-check-certificate --output-document='/etc/backup-manager/ftp-copy.conf'
command wget '' \
    --quiet --no-check-certificate --output-document='/etc/backup-manager/'
command chmod +x '/etc/backup-manager/'

Install the needed tools :

command apt-get install yafc

Setup Backup Manager to run the ftp-copy script at the end of the backup process :

command sed -i -e "s|[#]*\(.*BM_POST_BACKUP_COMMAND=\).*$|\1\"/etc/backup-manager/\"|" \

The configuration of the script is simple. It use the Backup Manager FTP upload method parameters (see before).

Warning : Check that the Backup Manager configuration contain FTP access parameters.

Update "/etc/backup-manager/ftp-copy.conf" file, and add the paths to copy directly on the remote FTP in the FTP_COPY_FOLDERS setting, separated by spaces. For example :

export FTP_COPY_FOLDERS="/home/ftp /var/www/uploads /my/really/big/folder"

This script is a quick and dirty code. It can probably be upgraded.

Note : use yafc FTP client and not ncftpput, because ncftpput has random connections errors when used with some FTP servers.